Damages Available in Personal Injury Lawsuits in KentuckyRepresenting Injured Victims
Plaintiffs in personal injury cases seek compensation for the harm they have suffered and will suffer in the future. Damages are a measure of the harm caused by the negligence or intentional acts of the defendant. Another type of damages (punitive damages) is meant to punish the defendant if the actions involved are extreme enough.
A personal injury lawsuit involves proving two things:
- Liability: The defendant is liable, or responsible, for the harm done to the plaintiff, and
- Damages: Because of the breach of that responsibility, the defendant needs to compensate the plaintiff for the harm suffered and pay money for those damages.
The burden to prove liability and damages is on the plaintiff. If liability cannot be proven, the lawsuit will be dismissed and there will be no damages. If liability is found but damages cannot be established, or a poor job is done in proving them, a defendant could be found liable but pay little or no damages.
What kinds of damages are available and for how much is a fact issue decided by a jury (or a judge, if there is no jury), depending on the facts of the particular case and the applicable law. If the award by the jury is seen by the judge as being extremely high or low, the judge may change the amount. A damages award breaks down into two types: compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are meant to put the plaintiff in the position he or she would have been in if the accident and injury never took place. By putting a dollar amount on the harm to the plaintiff, compensatory damages try to restore the victim financially, physically and emotionally.
Compensatory damages come in two categories: to pay the plaintiff back for monetary losses (also known as special damages) and to pay the accident victim for non-monetary losses (or general damages).
Monetary losses include:
- Medical expenses: They may cover the costs of past and future medical care and rehabilitation. Future medical costs are calculated by estimating the plaintiff’s medical needs for the rest of his or her expected life span.
- Costs of living with a disability: A disability caused by the injury may require the plaintiff to significantly change his or her life. Damages could cover the past or future costs that come with this change. These damages could cover the costs of house renovation to make it wheelchair-accessible or for in-home nursing care or assistance.
- Lost wages: This can cover wages lost since the accident and into the future as long as the plaintiff is expected to be unable to work or to work but with a diminished earning capacity.
- Repair or replacement of property: A plaintiff could recover the fair market value of property damaged or destroyed in an accident. If a car accident is involved, the plaintiff could be reimbursed for the damage to the car and any property inside it.
- Funeral expenses: If the accident results in the death of the victim, his or her family could recover the funeral and burial expenses incurred.
Non-monetary losses can be hard to calculate, and awards can vary significantly between victims in different cases. These damages include:
- Pain, suffering and disfigurement: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress and the psychological harm due to the accident, including permanent scarring and disfigurement. Emotional distress could be seen as reflecting the frustration, fear, anger, depression and loss of enjoyment of life due to the accident, injury and resulting disability. These damages can cover from the time of the accident into the future.
- Loss of consortium: Spouses of plaintiffs may receive damages due to the loss of the emotional and intangible support of the marriage, including affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, assistance and sexual relations. Other immediate family members can also seek damages for loss of consortium due to the loss of their personal relationships.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff due to harm or losses, but to punish the defendant for causing the victim’s injuries and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. Punitive damages are awarded in relatively few cases. They are normally awarded if the defendant’s conduct is seen as egregious, outrageous, wanton or reckless. They can include cases where a drunk or drugged driver causes the accident or if a driver is travelling at a very high rate of speed.
As part of the legal process, proving the defendant is liable for an accident is half the battle. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to the fault of another party, you need an attorney who knows what damages are available and how to prove them.
If you have been injured in an accident, we will be glad to make a free and confidential evaluation of your case. Call Kentucky personal injury attorney Julie Butcher today at (859) 233-3641 or use our online inquiry form.